What's New for 2001
The LX 470 finally adds the all-important optional DVD-based navigation system (and if you turn down the nav, you get a compass on the rearview mirror). The optional Nakamichi audio system is gone in favor of an optional nine-speaker Mark Levinson system. The standard audio system is enhanced with an Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL). Last year's optional wood and leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob is now a standard feature. New security features include a key card immobilizer and a free-wheel key cylinder that prevents people from opening the door with anything other than the LX 470 key. Second-row passengers will benefit from child seat anchors and improved cupholders in the rear of the center console. The standard alloy wheels have a new surface treatment, and chrome wheels are optional. The fuel cap now has a tether to appease the absent-minded. Two new exterior colors will be offered -- Mystic Sea Opalescent and Blue Vapor Metallic.
The LX 470 was our favorite luxury SUV in 2000, and Lexus has added even more standard equipment and wallet-draining options for 2001. Additional outfitting for Lexus' upmarket version of the Toyota Land Cruiser comes at a price, in this case a $1,300 increase in the MSRP. Of course, the LX 470 has always been priced in the same bracket as the flagship LS 400/430 sedan so such quibbling is probably irrelevant to serious buyers.
A navigation system is finally available as an option, and because it is DVD-based, occupants can use its view screen to watch DVD movies when the LX 470 is in "Park." If the gear selector is in "D," you can listen to, but not view, the movie. The Toyota Land Cruiser also gets a navigation system for 2001, but it costs over $1,000 less to fit the Toyota with this option. Why? Because Lexus has cleverly packaged its new nine-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system with the nav system. Lexus claims that the package will allow the LX 470's cabin to move into "home theater territory."
An interior already majestically swathed in material privilege (that is, walnut and animal hides all over everything and a gauge cluster lit to the specs of a large Christmas tree) is further enhanced by standard wood and leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob -- this feature was optional in 2000. We also love the ergonomics of the LX 470 cabin, as its large controls are easy to find and operate -- we do wish for satellite stereo or climate controls on the steering wheel, though. You can also find heated seats with memory, an auto-dimming day/night mirror, a dust and pollen filter, one-touch power windows and sunroof, automatic tilt-away steering column (for easier entry/exit), and separate rear-passenger climate controls. A third-row seat that is best suited to child-sized bodies is standard in the LX 470, but it can be folded up easily for those who have more cargo than people to haul.
Power comes from a 4.7-liter V8 that creates 230 horsepower and 320 foot-pounds of torque. This V8 is one of the smoothest engines (of any size or configuration) we've ever experienced, maintaining its stately composure from idle to redline. Still, we'd like Lexus to add a few more horsepower to propel the 5,401-pound truck -- the Lincoln Navigator weighs in at 5,585 pounds and offers 300 horses to lug its girth. Though neck-snapping acceleration is not within the Lexus repertoire, its rated towing capacity of 6500 pounds is indeed proof that it can haul the family yacht to the shore.
While its engine and much of its technology (skid control, traction control and brake assist) are shared with the Land Cruiser, the LX 470 does outdo its coach-class sibling with its Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) and Adjustable Height Control (AHC). AVS is a semi-active shock absorber system with five settings; at one end of the range is the float and wallow of a Buick Dynaride and, at the other, the jarring response of a Ford Super Duty pickup. After a setting has been selected, AVS adjusts the ride based on road surfaces, and steering, acceleration and braking input in order to create ride quality tailored to the driver's preferences. AHC allows the LX 470 to be raised to clear rough terrain and lowered for ease of entry and exit. With all of its technology, the Lexus excels in (nearly) every context, except on winding two-lane roads where it becomes unwieldy and, well, floppy.
New security features help ensure that your Lexus investment stays in your driveway. An immobilizer has been incorporated into the keyless entry remote, and a new free-wheel key cylinder in the doors prevents the naughty (and the owners) from opening the doors with anything other than the LX 470 key.
The extras that come standard on the LX 470 make it appealing when compared with a Land Cruiser. And if you really want AVS, AHC and the Mark Levinson audio system, the LX 470 is the only way to go. However, for our money, we'd probably save the $8,000 and go with the Toyota. Though we really like the AVS, we have to admit that the Land Cruiser has everything else we love about the Lexus -- and it offers it at a price that is more competitive with other luxury SUVs.